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Wizards eyeing changes to stop Tobias Harris in Game 2 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Wizards were served a worthy reminder in Game 1 on Sunday that the Sixers can beat you in more ways than one. While Joel Embiid gets most of the attention as an MVP finalist, he has a good deal of help, and in Game 1 it was Tobias Harris who popped off for a game-high 37 points, 28 of which came in the first half.
It wasn't unexpected necessarily, as the Wizards know what Harris can do. He's the Sixers' second-leading scorer at 19.5 points per game and he scores efficiently, with a 51.2 percentage from the field and 39.4 percent from three.
Now, going into Game 2, the Wizards have to figure out a way to neutralize Harris while also worrying about Embiid and the rest of the Sixers' arsenal which includes shooters like Seth Curry and Danny Green. It's not an easy task.
In reviewing film of Game 1, several areas seemed to hurt the Wizards the most when it came to defending Harris, particularly in the first half. They left him open too often for outside shots, gave him too much space for catch-and-gos and they got caught up consistently on screens.
Here is an example from the first half where Bradley Beal left Harris to help on Green. That created an easy pass for Green to Harris, who knocked down the shot:
Rui Hachimura spent more time on Harris than anyone and he was guilty of giving too much room for catch-and-gos. Harris has a quick first step and can get downhill in no time. Once he gets into the lane, he's very adept at finishing in traffic, either through contact, with a floater or by knocking down fadeaways over outstretched arms.
Here's an example from the first half of Hachimura not being close enough to meet Harris at the catch. Harris blew past him for two points:
Hachimura himself pointed out the screening issue after Monday's practice. After watching film of the game, he realized he needs to do better at getting around picks. Dwight Howard did most of the damage with nine total screen assists, leading to 20 points, and a bunch of them were to free up Harris.
"I just kept getting screens. He would get space and then it’s an easy score," Hachimura said. "I’ve just gotta be more physical, just attached to him. I’ve gotta avoid keep getting screened. That’s I think the key to guarding him, just gotta be on his body the whole time and just pressure him."
Fighting through screens from Howard is no easy task. He's 6-foot-10 and 265 pounds, with one of the widest builds in the league. He can build a wall with his shoulders that nobody wants to run into.
Hachimura will just have to find a way. The good news is the Wizards adjusted well to defending Harris in the second half. After scoring 28 in the first half on Sunday, Harris had nine after halftime.
"I think our defense on Tobias was obviously much better than the first half," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought the first half, we gave him a lot of comfort shots, a lot of comfort space. We didn’t challenge his dribble, we didn’t challenge his space. I thought in the second half we did a better job. You can’t take anything away from him. He’s a professional scorer."
Hachimura was playing in his first career playoff game on Sunday and Harris gave him quite the welcome. Given Harris is his primary assignment, Hachimura will need to learn quickly from his mistakes going into Game 2, or else it will be tough for the Wizards to even up the series.